For the first week of the high school track and field season, Donovan Fenwick was the top high jumper in Washington.
On March 15, at the South Sound Jamboree, the North Thurston junior uncorked a career-best jump of six feet, four inches, and rocketed to the top of the rankings.
He’s matched that jump since — and remains one of the state’s top jumpers — but his rapid success was pleasantly surprising.
Fenwick had no idea this was coming. Neither did jumps coach Belinda Edwards or his parents.
“I knew he was going to be a 6-4 jumper,” Edwards said. “I just didn’t know it was going to be that soon.”
Edwards projected something closer to 6-0 early on. She worked with Fenwick last year during a shortened sophomore season.
He topped out at 5-4 in competition, and only participated in two meets before his parents decided to pull him out of the program to focus on school.
Jovita Fenwick said she and her husband, Daniel, thought Donovan needed to mature.
“Everybody has a different struggle year,” Edwards said. “I think last year was his. He’s been a lot more serious at practice this year than he was last year, and he’s really focused.”
Donovan Fenwick said he started turning his grades around after his older sister started college at Washington State.
He asked her questions about it, and realized he needed to focus on his academic future.
“I just flipped a switch,” he said.
During first semester this school year, he finished with a 3.16 GPA, and has continued to be productive in the classroom.
“He’s matured a ton,” said North Thurston football coach Willie Garrow, who has worked with Fenwick the past two seasons.
“He spent his summer getting his academics in order. He straightened it out, came out in the fall, and played a lot for us.”
The momentum has continued from there, and Fenwick said he’s started to recognize that he could have a future in college athletically.
“I started to take it really seriously, started training, and started getting better,” he said.
Jovita Fenwick said her son has always been athletically gifted, but even she was stunned by his immediate success in the high jump — an event he had little experience in.
She told him to respect his gift, and keep working at it.
“He’s a natural athlete,” Jovita Fenwick said. “He just has to keep the grades up, and he’ll go far. We’re proud of him.”
Donovan Fenwick said he’s watched YouTube videos to help his form. He’s also worked with Edwards more on technique this season, and welcomes any advice that can help him improve.
“Last year I was hard-headed, and this year I’ve really been listening,” Fenwick said.
Based on his progress so far, Edwards thinks Fenwick has the potential to jump 6-6 by the end of the season, especially if the weather cooperates.
“He’s really doing phenomenal with everything in practice, and his grades are better this year, so we’re just really excited about what the future holds for him,” Edwards said.
Fenwick won the Class 3A South Sound Conference high jump title last week, and will compete at the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict championships this weekend in Sumner.
He’s the third-ranked jumper in 3A — along with six others from around the state — and is in good position to contend for a podium spot at the state championships in Tacoma.
“I’ve really been working hard,” Fenwick said. “I want to try to place in state.”
Shadle Park senior Jakobe Ford leads the classification at 7-0, but Fenwick thrives under competition.
Before that first meet, he’d only cleared 6-1 in practice. He watched River Ridge’s Josh Kennedy clear 6-2 at the jamboree and knew he had to match it. But he ended up pushing the bar even higher.
“I really like seeing how high I can get, and the competition,” Fenwick said. “It’s just fun.”